Are You For or Against?

Here is my question…is it better to be for something or against something? I’ve been doing some thinking about this lately because it seems we have become a culture of anti. We’ve got anti-drug campaigns, anti-cigarette campaigns, anti-war campaigns. You name it, there’s probably a group of anti-something toward it somewhere. I’m not saying being anti is a bad thing. I’m certainly anti anything that is harmful to ourselves or our world. But therein lies the problem. What I think is harmful, someone else may believe differently. And then we’re back to those pro versus con issues again.

Mother Teresa was asked one time if she would join an anti-war rally. This was her reply: “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.” I’d never thought about that before. Maybe it’s all in how or what you focus on.

We can choose to be against something, or we can choose to be for something else. Mother Teresa wasn’t against war, she was for peace. There will be those that claim this is the same thing, but I think I would have to disagree. Being against anything is a feeling of negativity. To be negative is the opposite of being positive. Mother Teresa was saying she chose to attack things from the positive end of the spectrum instead of the negative. This thinking required a great deal of contemplation on my part.

I had always been…anti-drugs, anti-smoking, anti-war. But where have all of the anti-anythings gotten us? In all of the years since the all of the anti-campaigns began, have we made much progress? We have a lot more campaigns against a lot more things, but do they work?

I wonder if we took a different approach, an approach that may be less publicized but may be more effective, if we would begin to see the changes we’ve all been ‘fighting’ for, for so long. What would happen if we started being for things instead of against other things? Instead of being anti-war, we followed Mother Teresa’s advice and became for peace. Instead of being anti-drugs, we became for sobriety. Instead of being anti-smoking, we changed our focus to being for clean air.

Would it make a difference? Some will see this shift as pointless. It would appear, on the surface, that we are all aiming for the same goal, but I would question that. You see, when you fight against anything, you are sending negative emotions and feelings to that goal. These negative emotions produce all kinds of bad things because when you focus on the negative, your body takes those signals and channels those into all of your energies. You become what you focus on, so if you’re focusing on opposition and fighting, you’ll get more opposition and fighting. Even if you’re fighting for something, it’s still fighting. It’s still war.

If you focus on the positive, being for something, then you’ll get more positives in return. You’re no longer fighting and moving in a negative direction, you’re moving in a positive direction and more positives will return to you.

I used to try to teach this concept to my preschool teachers. They would come to me complaining about a particular child and how ‘naughty’ that child was. My first question was always, “And what have you done?” (I learned this idea from my parents. It was always their first question to me when I had a problem). The teacher’s response was almost always, “Well, I’ve put them in time out, I’ve sent notes home to the parents, I’ve talked to the child over and over again. I just don’t know what else to do.”

My next question always surprised the newer staff people. I would ask, “Have you told them what they’re doing right, or well?” The teacher would inevitably look at me as if I had two heads and say something to the effect of, “No, I don’t think you understand me. This child is a problem. There aren’t any good things to talk to them about.” To which my response was, “Really, NOTHING? Do they cry when they come to school, or are they happy to come? Do they help other children at any time? Do they walk, instead of run, through the room? Do they smile when you talk to them? Isn’t there something that they do that you enjoy about them? No matter how small or seemingly insignificant, there must be something.” And as we examined it more closely, we would inevitably find at least one or two things that were good. Many times the teacher was surprised by all the good things we could find.

My assignment to the teacher was to try something different; try to point out the good things, however few and far between they were, to the child. Some days it would be difficult to find something, but they should do it. Find something, any little thing, that was positive and celebrate it with that child. Once the teacher made that shift, from the negative to the positive, change would begin to show in that child’s behavior. And there would be more positive behavior. By the next visit with the teacher, in almost all of the cases, they would have good reports.

It’s a small shift in our thinking. Well, OK, maybe it’s not so small. For some of us, to shift away from being against the bad to being for the good, is a quantum leap but it has huge benefits. Mother Teresa was never for war, but she understood that fighting against it would only produce more of what she didn’t want. Fighting just produces more fighting. We’ve seen evidence of that over the past forty or fifty years. Maybe it’s time to try a new approach. Maybe we need to start deciding what we’re for!

“It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.”